Bradley Wiggins has heaped praise on Geraint Thomas after the Ineos star remounted his bike after a horrendous-looking crash.
A day of carnage at the Tour de France concluded with Tim Merlier (Alpecin–Fenix) taking victory on Stage 3 and a worrying crash involving Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), but Thomas kicked off the drama when he dislocated his shoulder in a crash with 145 kilometres remaining – an incident that saw Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma) abandon the race entirely.
The Welshman was guided back into the peloton by teammates Luke Rowe and Dylan van Baarle after having his shoulder popped back in.
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General classification hopeful Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) hit the deck with 10 kilometres remaining to spark a frantic chase – and impromptu team time trial – before Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) was among those caught up in another incident down the road. Roglic finished the stage over a minute down, putting him 20th on GC at 1'35".
And Wiggins, speaking alongside Sean Kelly and Graham Willgoss on the latest episode of the Bradley Wiggins Show, said that he knew it was a serious crash immediately.
"It was disbelief," began Wiggins. "Straight away, you knew it was bad. He was sat on the floor. Luke Rowe waited with him so we knew it was G straight away.
"But he looked in pain and he looked like he’d done something wrong and it was like history repeating itself again. How many times have we seen this with Geraint?
"Then we understood it was a dislocated shoulder and he was back up but that must have been painful in itself popping it back in, that’s not any sort of positive. That means that he can continue riding but there will be a trauma effect, ligaments etc."
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However, with the assistance of Rowe, Thomas managed to limit his losses - finishing just 26 seconds behind stage winner Merlier - and Wiggins spoke of the Welshman's ironclad mentality.
Other than this man [Sean Kelly] and Sean Yates he’s one of the hardest men I’ve ever met. He rode in the 2013 Tour with a broken pelvis for three weeks.
"He will reset and recalibrate and I wouldn’t be surprised if this sort of knocks him into shape a bit because he went to the line. Most people would have, I would have given up a bit and just ambled along, if not climbed off at the time. It shows a mentality with G. That’s why he’s won the Tour de France, he’s something special."
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Thomas is one minute and seven seconds in arrears of race leader Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and 31 seconds behind defending champion Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates).
Ewan had to abandon with a broken collarbone after colliding with Sagan, and Wiggins said that the Slovakian's riding style had made him unpopular in the peloton, but added it was part of his make up as a successful rider.
"That [barging] is what makes [Peter] Sagan good. He does a lot of that on his own because he doesn’t have the strength in depth in the team so he has to position himself a lot on his own," said Wiggins.
"Plus, he’s Peter Sagan and if someone is going to elbow him then he’s going to elbow back. He throws his weight around but he also walks the walk when he delivers performances which is why he’s Peter Sagan, and who’s going to argue with him?
"He been docked at times time and relegated for his bad riding but he never complains, he gets on with it.
But it’s the way he rides, it’s what makes him such a good rider. It’s the way he rides aggressively when he’s attacking and thrusting himself around.
It’s because of that, and his physical stature, he’s a strong guy. I wouldn’t take anything away from him or criticise him for doing that. It’s part and parcel of racing and you’ve got to be like that to an extent. He only does it when necessary, he’s not a bully. I wouldn’t say he’s a bully, I just think he’s Peter Sagan.
Tuesday's Stage 4 of the Tour de France will see the race travel 150km from Redon to Fougères, and represents an opportunity for another hectic sprint finish.
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The big winners and losers after a day of GC carnage - Analysis from Tom Owen
The third stage of this year's Tour de France looked benign on paper. A simple sprint stage, the first opportunity for the fastest bike riders in the world to duke it out. In the end, it proved to be a decisive day for the riders targeting general classification – perhaps one of the most influential in terms of the GC that we will see in the race overall.
There were some riders who won small, in terms of seconds gained against their main rivals, while others lost big – but still have a shot. Some, like Jack Haig, riding his first Grand Tour in a leadership role for Bahrain-Victorious, have seen their races end before they ever got going.
These are the main winners and losers from today's general classification carnage.
Without doubt the day's best-performing GC rider was Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers). The Ecuadorian managed to navigate the hectic finale and finish in the first group across the line. He lost no time to Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin Fenix), the current yellow jersey, but also kept pace with Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck QuickStep), second overall and maillot jaune-elect.
It is worth mentioning Alaphilippe, also. He's not an out-and-out GC guy, but has enjoyed two long stints in the maillot jaune in recent Tours, by virtue of his buccaneering attacking style and tenacious defence once he gets in the jersey. Today's performance will not be enough to convince him he has a really good shot of winning the race overall, but his odds have certainly improved. And rest assured, the French hype train just got a little bit more fuel.
Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) can dust his shoulders off and thank the cycling gods that today didn't turn out worse. He was slowed down by the penultimate crash of the day, the one occurring some seven kilometres out from the finish line. The delay meant he lost some time, but only 26 seconds to eventual stage winner Tim Merlier (Alpecin Fenix). That means ceding 26 seconds to Carapaz and Alaphilippe, and only twelve to the middle GC group.
The middle GC group comprised Enric Mas (Movistar), Nairo Quintana (Arkea Samsic), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana PremierTech) and Wilco Kelderman (Bora Hansgrohe), and they all finished 14 seconds behind Merlier, Carapaz and Alaphilippe. This is the group that the peloton became when the really fast guys lit up the sprint. This is not Quintana's terrain at all, so he will be delighted with how the day has gone – and he is still in the top ten of GC, along with Kelderman and Mas.
This was a terrible day for Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), one he'll want to forget. A crash that seemed to be no fault of his own led to a frantic chase back effort, that was fairly successful in limiting his losses to just 1'26". The stage leaves him 1'35" adrift of the yellow jersey, but he has plenty of terrain that suits him coming up. He will hope to get through tomorrow without incident and allow his road rash to heal a little before the Stage 5 time trial which suits him very well – and where he is expected to take some time back.
Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) was another key rider brought down in a crash, but while it initially looked like curtains for the Welshman's yellow jersey hopes, he was able to ride back to the peloton, keep on going to the finish and navigate the worst of the later-stage carnage. He now sits two places above Roglic after losing only 26 seconds. We don't yet know the impact of his injury, or whether it will inhibit his performance on the TT bike on Wednesday. One thing that might keep Thomas awake tonight however, other than his sore shoulder, is the prospect that Carapaz is now more than a minute ahead of him – and must be edging closer to the out-and-out leadership of the team.
Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar) lost the same amount of time as Roglic, coming home just behind the Slovenian. He now sits 3'43" down and tumbles out of the top 40. If it was not so this morning before the stage start, his general classification is now inarguably irretrievable.
Finally, a word on Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) who received the bitterest blow of all today when his race was ended before it really began. Haig was the rider most badly affected by the 7km crash that slowed down Pogacar, but unlike the defending Tour de France champ, the Australian was not able to get back on his bike.
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